Coronavirus (COVID-19): Children and Families Collective Leadership Group minutes - 25 March 2021

Minutes for the meeting of the group on 25 March 2021.

Attendees and apologies

Chair: Iona Colvin


  • Association of Directors of Education in Scotland (ADES) - Jennifer King, apologies from Douglas Hutchison
  • Care Inspectorate - Chris Lumb
  • CELCIS, University of Strathclyde - Claire Burns
  • Children’s Hearings Scotland (CHS) - apologies from Elliot Jackson
  • Children in Scotland - apologies from Jackie Brock  
  • Child Protection Committees Scotland - Susan Mitchell
  • Coalition of Care and Support Providers in Scotland (CCPS) - Sheila Gordon 
  • COSLA - Eddie Follan, Jillian Ingram
  • Disabled Children and Young People Advisory Group (DCYPAG) - Jim Carle 
  • Education Scotland - Laura-Ann Currie
  • The Promise - Fi McFarlane, Thomas Carlton, apologies from Claire Stuart
  • Inspiring Children’s Futures, University of Strathclyde - Jennifer Davidson
  • NHS Chief Executives - Angela Wallace 
  • NHS NES - Karen Wilson
  • Scottish Ambulance Service - Jayne Scaife
  • Police Scotland - apologies from Sam McCluskey
  • Public Health Scotland - Debby Wason
  • Scottish Children’s Reporter Administration (SCRA) - apologies from Neil Hunter
  • SOLACE - Margo Williamson
  • Social Work Scotland - Alison Gordon
  • Scottish Social Services Council - apologies from Cheryl Glen
  • Scottish Youth Parliament - apologies from Liam Fowley

Scottish Government :

  •  Iona Colvin
  • Ann Holmes
  • Wendy Mitchell
  • Carolyn Wilson
  • Kate Smith
  • Angela Davidson
  • Bill Scott-Watson
  • Mairi Macpherson
  • Byrony Revell
  • Kieran McQuaid
  • Laura Holton
  • Diane Beveridge
  • Lesley Swanson

Additional meeting participants:

  • Lorrette Nicol, Social Work Scotland
  • Helen Pasquale, Police Scotland
  • Rikke Iversholt, Social Care Programme Lead, Directorate for Digital Reform and Service Engagement 

Leadership Group secretariat:

  • Peter Donachie
  • Claire Scott
  • Chris Lindores

Items and actions

Welcome and note of last meeting (11 March 2021)

Iona Colvin welcomed members to the meeting and introduced Jayne Scaife from the Scottish Ambulance Service as a new member of the Leadership Group.

There were no amendments to the note of the last meeting on 11 March. 

On the actions from the last meeting:

  • Ann Holmes and Michael Chalmers are continuing to use meetings with Nurse Directors and other channels to monitor Health Visitor staff being redeployed to assist vaccinations work. The continuing evidence to date is that this is not a major issue
  • Iona Colvin, Grace Vickers and Michael Chalmers will discuss with Jackie Brock next steps on Children’s Wellbeing Economy work
  • Iona Colvin will consider with Grace Vickers and Alison Gordon the most effective means of gathering data on respite care 
  • Iona Colvin will meet Sheila Gordon and representatives from Families Outside to explore how the action plan can assist children with a parent in prison

Update on domestic abuse workstream  

Kieran McQuaid provided an update on the domestic abuse workstream in the Leadership Group’s Action Plan. The sub-group’s areas of focus are increased visibility, awareness and vigilance with wider services; improved access to services; and increasing mental health support. The main challenges include unsustainability of funding for core services; a rise in referrals as restrictions ease; and the participation of children and young people while perpetrators are present. The sub-group has requested Leadership Group’s support in taking a more strategic and systemic approach including moving from short to long term funding and other support.  

Kieran also noted the importance of domestic abuse informed practice. For example, Dundee’s Make a Stand project where housing association maintenance teams receive training that enables them to identify the signs of domestic abuse when they carry out work in homes and ensure they knew how to handle such suspicions. The sub group have highlighted the need for structured training/awareness programmes with differentiated approach depending on role.  

Members made the following points in discussion:

  • important to obtain an analysis and better understanding of the funding pressures involved
  • short term funding can provide a bridge to longer-term initiatives by helping to scope out strategies and requirements but this needs to be supported by providers from the outset
  • there are strong links and cross-over with work on mental health. Angela Davidson highlighted a letter from the Minister for Mental Health on 23 March providing further information on how funding will be allocated from the Mental Health Recovery and Renewal Fund
  • the Framework for the new Community MH and Wellbeing Support for CYP enables family support. A total of £15m is available to local authorities in 21/22
  • there has also been some changes announced this week to the Equally Safe Fund
  • community mental health and wellbeing initiatives taking place in Dundee can make a positive contribution to wider work. Initial mapping work can be shared with Leadership Group
  • sustained support for named person and other aspects of GIRFEC, and trauma-informed training can help to achieve a more strategic and systemic approach
  • Children's Services Planning Partnerships are key to this with plans including links to work of Child Protection Committees and Violence Against Women Partnerships
  • important to include universal health services who are involved in routine inquiry in maternity and health visiting services. Health colleagues should be an integral part of this and other workstreams within the action plan


  • copy of the letter sent to members after the meeting
  • Kieran McQuaid to liaise with Wendy Mitchell over involving health colleagues in Domestic Abuse workstream


    Iona Colvin/Secretariat to review health representation in other workstreams


Iona Colvin noted that the Learning Event on 20 May will provide an opportunity to discuss an over-arching strategy for domestic abuse, access to services, workforce resilience and other workstreams within the action plan. A draft agenda for the Learning Event will be discussed at a future meeting. Further work on a strategic approach to trauma-informed training will also be discussed with Leadership Group.  

Additional points from MS Teams chat:

Domestic abuse pathways are something the Scottish Ambulance Service has trouble accessing is there a single process of referral?

A lot of issues relating to parents of children with disabilities and learning difficulties have been raised with us. Would be interested to see if you have any data on these areas specifically and what DCYPAG could do to support you and the families.

The participation of children and young people could be picked up by the action group?

Education Scotland have the Mentors in Violence work programme which has and continues to be impactful. We work collaborative with domestic abuse stakeholders, some of whom will be in this meeting.

Is there work being done you could say more about, from a preventative perspective, around reducing male violence against women across society?

This will link well with the school based training. Some joint work with SW colleagues in LAs might be useful to think about.


  • Kieran McQuaid will respond to members on the issues and queries that have been raised

National Joint Investigative Interviewing project

Eddie Follan, Jillian Ingram, Lorrette Nicol, Helen Pasquale, Alison Gordon and Lesley Swanson presented the multi-agency work on Joint Investigative Interviewing.

Eddie highlighted the collective work taking place to improve the experience of Joint Investigative Interviewing for the children involved and raise the quality of the interviews to be used as Evidence in Chief. This helps remove the need for vulnerable children to give evidence in court and reduce the potential of further trauma for child victims and witnesses.

Jillian said that the project had been established in 2017 from a growing understanding of how difficult children were finding the interviews. The project was helping to address this by training police and social workers to higher standards, using smaller numbers of interviewers, improving the quality of evidence provided through the interviews by drawing on national and international models tailored to the Scottish context and the modernisation of criminal and civil law practice. The project is helping to meet the Promise by focusing on the needs of children rather than the system and the lived experiences of those involved.

Lorrette discussed the research and development phase of the project which ran for around 18 months and explored a wide range of models and evidence from FBI forensic interview techniques to work in England, Portugal, Australia, Finland and Norway. The project had drawn on the NICHD (National Institute of Child Health and Human Development) Protocol for investigative interviews and trauma informed practices including liaising with NHS NES and speech and language therapists.   

Helen spoke about the implementation phase of the Scottish Child Interview Model initially in two pilot sites – Lanarkshire and North Strathclyde – with Dumfries and Galloway and Glasgow joining as further pilot sites. Implementation support is tailored to each individual area although there are challenges in being sufficiently flexible to meet local needs while retaining the structure of the new model. Close links are being made with Children 1st , Healthcare Improvement Scotland, Care Inspectorate and other partners involved in developing Barnahus standards and model for Scotland.       

Alison described Lanarkshire’s work on the project over the last year. The pandemic has had limited impact on the roll-out which has continued as planned with a core team of 12 specialist interviewers. Staff feedback has been good. Lanarkshire has kept a strong focus on ensuring that children’s experiences and feedback continue to shape evaluation, learning and improvement. Feedback to date is encouraging but investigative interviewing remains an extremely difficult experience for children. There is a continuing need to ensure that the basic conditions are right: for example, one child complained about the cold room in which the interview was taking place. There are also challenges around sustainability given the relatively small number of staff involved.     

Lesley Swanson presented the project within the wider policy and strategic context including UNCRC Incorporation, GIRFEC, The Promise and the Vision for Youth Justice. This includes investigative interviews resulting from implementation work in raising the age of criminal responsibility in Scotland from 8 to 12 years.         


Jillian concluded the presentation by outlining the evaluation and learning framework. This will consider how the model is being applied in practice; whether the training, evidence and quality standards are high enough; and feedback from staff and children. An interim evaluation report is due to be published shortly and this will inform the national roll-out plan. 

Members welcomed the project and made the following comments:

  • great to hear how the voice and experiences of children and young people has been at the centre of this work
  • how will the model be adjusted for children with disability, for example those children with speech and language difficulties or Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Lorrette responded that planning the interviews includes speaking to those most closely involved with children who have complex needs to ensure that these can be supported. There is consideration of the needs of each child and only a very small minority are unable to participate in the interviews
  • improvements have been made to the conditions in which the interviews take place but there is significant potential for further work. For example, children still have to attend the interviews by going through police stations or other imposing buildings. It would be useful for members to receive a presentation on the Barnahus model and House of Healing when the scoping work has been completed in the summer


  • Lesley Swanson to liaise with Mary Glasgow/Children 1st  HIS, Care Inspectorate to arrange a joint presentation for CLG in the summer

Digital inclusion: Technology Enabled Care

Jim Carle introduced Rikke Iversholt to provide an overview of the Technology Enabled Care Programme’s activities and plans in relation to children and young people. This includes care reviews using Near Me, digital solutions supporting prevention of drug deaths and mental health.

Rikke highlighted major increases in consultations using Near Me during the course of the pandemic. Near Me has supported care reviews by facilitating interactions between professional staff, enabling guardians and next of kin to participate in the reviews without attending the care home in person and reducing unnecessary footfall within care homes. Near Me is however mostly being used in care homes for older people. Rikke is keen to discuss with CLG how to improve take-up in children’s care homes including better supporting children with exceptional needs.

Although there were significant benefits, there are some challenges for care homes around Near Me and other digital solutions. This includes connectivity and availability. For example, wi-fi being supplied in foyers and other common spaces but not individual rooms. There are also some concerns over data storage and security; and the availability of resources to upgrade and future proof provision. Work is underway to tackle these issues with the aim of all care homes in Scotland becoming digitally enabled through three main areas of work – digital foundations including superfast broadband connectivity or equivalent within all areas of the care home, digital services to support the health, independence and wellbeing of residents, and digital leadership and skills for staff and residents.  

Rikke noted that £2.75 million is being provided to develop digital solutions to support the prevention of drug deaths. This funding will be closely linked to family support and other services.  

Rikke concluded her presentation by summarising the work taking place on digital mental health including peri-natal and young person cCBT services.

Members made the following points in discussion:

  • important to consider how Near Me and other digital solutions can be used together with and alongside person-to-person services post-pandemic. This is not an “all or nothing” situation but a flexible response to different circumstances
  • there is a need to consider the interface between Near Me and digital provision from education services for children’s care homes
  • upskilling the workforce is crucial. There is a risk of over-estimating the level of skills within the workforce in using digital technology. A significant amount of time has been spent training staff how to use the Near Me platform. Where this has gone well and been needs-led, it has been used creatively to assist children with exceptional needs. Rikke agreed there are significant opportunities to shape digital solutions around the needs of children and families particularly in moving from immediate work to address the challenges of the pandemic to longer term planning
  • there were queries over the evaluation work being undertaken including on qualitative differences between digital and face-to-face consultations. Rikke noted that an evaluation of Near Me by Oxford University has just been published. However, more qualitative research is needed. Hazel Archer can provide Leadership Group with further information as work progresses
  • there were also queries over the significant drop in Near Me consultations around weeks 42-44 in Rikke’s presentation. This is likely to be due to the festive period

Mairi Macpherson requested further information on how Near Me is being used within maternity services including by midwives and health visitors.

 Rikke offered to respond by email to any further queries from members. Rikke’s email address is


  • Rikke Iversholt to have follow up discussion with Debby Wason
  • Rikke to send follow up information

Review of progress on action plan

Iona Colvin updated members on the action plan (paper 25/1). Key achievements are that Children’s Hearings Scotland’s recruitment campaign for panel members has been highly successful. 700 panel members were sought and over 1,900 applications were received.

AOB and close

Bill Scott-Watson informed members that a strategy paper on improving outcomes has been developed for discussion. The paper will be provided to CLG to consider at their next meeting on 8 April.

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